Tenwek Hospital – Kenya
Located in the Rift Valley, Tenwek Hospital mainly serves the Maasai and Kipsigis tribes. These proud peoples make a living by cattle herding and subsistence farming, respectively, and generally live in great poverty. Their physical afflictions include malaria, typhoid, diarrhea, malnutrition, distant trauma (nonunion fractures, open fractures), tuberculosis, and obstetrical complications. In this context, Tenwek has been offering hope since 1935.
Comprehensive healthcare is provided, including HIV care, dental, physical therapy, public health, and hospice. Tenwek integrates teaching and formation throughout it services and hosts formal training programs in medicine, surgery, nursing, laboratory and pharmacy, and chaplaincy. Thus, Tenwek has earned a solid reputation for health promotion and for compassionate affordable healthcare, recognized throughout the surrounding provinces and nations.
Location & Community
Bomet County, Kenya, is located in the Rift Valley region northeast of Nairobi and just east of Lake Victoria. The altitude varies from 5000 to 9000 above sea level. Average temperatures in Bomet County are between 28-32 degrees Celsius (82-86 degrees Fahrenheit). During the cold months, temperatures reduces to as low as 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). On average, the warmest month is March and coolest month is August. The rainfall patterns are distributed well throughouta the year.
The topography of the area is moderately steep, an attribute that promotes horticulture and dairy cattle keeping. The main backbone of the economy of Bomet County is derived from the sale of tea produced for local and international markets. Tourism also contributes to the economy as visitors are drawn to sceneries such as Olambwe Valley forest, Kariandusi Prehistoric sites, Langa Langa racing circuit, Mariwa Archaeological Reserve and Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
Become familiar with Kenya’s culture, history and economy by reviewing the Wikipedia Kenya Profile. Rich resources for Kenya health information include the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME Kenya Country Profile and the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory Kenya Data.
Travelers should fly into Nairobi. Arrangements will be made with a guesthouse in Nairobi for pick up from the airport. Travelers could expect to stay overnight, as the drive to Tenwek Hospital is 4 hours.
For current information, please visit the Kenyan Embassy website appropriate for your country. United States citizens may visit the website for the Kenyan Embassy in the USA: https://www.kenyaembassydc.org. United States citizens can normally purchase a visa on arrival at the airport in Nairobi and should be prepared to pay cash in US dollars. To speed the immigration process, the visa application can be downloaded from the Kenyan Embassy website and completed in advance.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
The hospital is located at an elevation of 7000 feet. Malaria is not frequent, but is chloroquine resistant. Some visitors opt to take malaria prophylaxis. Travelers should be up-to-date on vaccinations again hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, typhoid, meningococcus and pneumococcus. One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information.
This region of the Rift Valley is home to the Kipsigis people – a dominant tribe. The other tribal group is the Maasai – proud, bold nomadic cattle herders who own large collective tracts of land. The area had no electricity service until 1980. Roads are still sparse. Most people live via subsistence farming amid great poverty.
All hospital business is conducted in English. Half of patients speak English, and half speak only Kipsigis. A lesser number speak Ma and Swahili. Hospital staff is available to provide interpretation.
Medical Care Services
In 1935, the Colonial Kenyan government granted 10 acres to World Gospel Mission where Catherine Smith began treating illnesses and delivering babies. In the decades since that time, Tenwek Hospital has grown in every dimension, while maintaining their position that We Treat – Jesus Heals.
Comprehensive outpatient and inpatient care is provided in all the major fields, including pediatrics, internal medicine, general and orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology, and emergency medicine. Obstetrics and gynecology are particularly active, providing family planning, cancer screening, limited fertility and cancer treatment, and approximately 3000 deliveries each year, with a Caesarean section rate of 22 to 28 percent.
Medical care is supported by an electronic medical record system, full radiology and ultrasound, CT, echocardiography, comprehensive laboratory including microbiology, and endoscopy.
Tenwek Hospice was established in 2001 in response to a great need to care for people with terminal illnesses, especially the growing number of people living with HIV/AIDS. A team of trained hospice nurses make hundreds of home visits each year at no charge, reaching out to patients and families with terminal illnesses to help them have a comfortable and dignified end to their lives.
HIV Care Services
Tenwek Hospital hosts grant-funded HIV services that include:
- Volunteer Counseling and Testing (VCT)
- Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission
- Training of teachers and students via the TCHD public health initiative Why Wait – an abstinence based, biblical character formation curriculum
- ART therapy and management of AIDS complications
- Mobilizing and assisting the churches to care for AIDS orphans
Physical & Occupational Therapy Services
Disabilities represent a vast and largely unattended human need in Kenya, addressed by Tenwek Hospital’s basic physical therapy services.
Public Health Initiatives
Tenwek Community Health and Development (TCHD) was founded in 1983 with the simple mission of eliminating childhood infectious diseases. This dream has been realized and expanded such that TCHD is, today, a leading development agency in the South Rift Valley region, continuing under the motto Bir Mat Ko Loo – Prevention is Better Than Cure. Students are welcome to participate in public health initiatives, which include:
- Provision of safe and accessible water and sanitation via bio-sand water filters, construction of rain water holding tanks at area schools, capping of natural springs, construction of pit latrines, and personal hygiene training for primary school children.
- Material child health promotion via immunization and antenatal care clinics and preventative health education through community resource persons.
- Green House Training that encourages community empowerment through leadership training, financial accountability, and local cooperative efforts.
Healthcare Profession Staff
Tenwek enjoys healthcare profession leadership from both Kenyan and international personnel. The majority of the latter are American, and represented specialties include family medicine, internal medicine, infectious diseases, pediatrics, general surgery, and orthopedics.
Consistent with Tenwek Hospital’s mission statement “…excellence in teaching for service,” the institution makes a hearty investment into healthcare education. Both Kenyan and international medical students participate in clinical opportunities. Kenyan students often later become medical officer interns and resident physicians in family medicine and surgery at Tenwek Hospital, qualifying for Masters degrees through Kenya’s Moi University. Surgery residency training is accomplished in cooperation with the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). Medical education is complemented by daily conferences, book reviews, journal clubs, and research activities.
The Tenwek School of Nursing has been training qualified nurses since 1987, including specialized tracts for community health nurses and for midwives, many of whom become the principal nurses for the hospital. Tenwek, in collaboration with the Government of Kenya and Christian Health Association of Kenya also offers a training program for clinical officer interns (similar to physician assistants or nurse practitioners), including tracts for anesthetists and ophthalmology. Other Tenwek training programs include those for dental technicians, laboratory technicians, pharmaceutical technicians, and chaplains. Education is complemented by a respectable library. Previous INMED Learners who served at this training site include these Graduates.
Student Lodging & Meals
Students and visitors are provided accommodation in guesthouses during their stay. The modern facilities create a friendly environment for study, as well as relaxation. Each quarters generally has two twin beds, a bathroom, and kitchenette. All are connected to a central room with larger kitchen, and entertainment room.
For those who choose a meal plan, breakfast and dinner are provided at guesthouse. The lunch meal (considered the main meal in Kenya) is provided at the guest house, at the hospital, or a private residence. Guests also may cook on their own, utilizing a mini store attached to the guesthouse where one can purchase food items.
Wi-fi is available in the hospital and guesthouses for a small fee. Visitors may be given cell phones to facilitate their hospital responsibilities.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to donate to support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they will provide opportunities for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
The Tenwek campus has a gorgeous hiking loop with its own waterfall. The scenic Motigo Mountain, highest elevation in the region, is a frequent hiking venture just outside the campus. Darts, table tennis, volleyball, and racket ball are favorite afterhours activities. The Masai Mara Safari Club is available to arrange weekend tours around Kenya.
Behavior & Dress
For work duties and ventures outside the home women should wear skirts below the knee. Neither men nor women should wear short pants. Short sleeves are acceptable for both men and women, as are surgical scrubs.
What To Pack
Visitors should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. It is recommended to also pack a carry-on bag that has essential items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost.